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2008 Summer Olympic Games Preview - Judo

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Beijing Science and Technology University Gymnasium in the Haidian District will be the site for Olympic Judo competition.

Modern Judo was developed in the late 1800s, but its history in the Olympic Games is a bit more recent, with the sport being introduced in the 1964 Games in Tokyo. Women's Judo was added to the docket in 1992 in Barcelona. There are seven weight classes each for men and women, with the men competing at 60kg, 66kg, 73kg, 81kg, 90kg, 100kg and heavyweight unlimited (over 100kg) and the women competing at 48kg, 52kg, 57kg, 63kg, 70kg, 78kg and heavyweight unlimited (over 78kg)

All judo matches are now five minutes long, a change from Sydney when women's matches were just four minutes in duration. A match can end sooner than five minutes if a contestant scores a "ippon" or two "waza-aris." In addition, matches can come to an abrupt end for a penalty known as a "hansuko--make." There is also a combination win because one scores a "waza-ari" in conjunction with "shido" penalties called on the opponent.

An "ippon" is one full point and is a throw that lands an opponent on his or her back, with considerable force and speed. A "waza-ari" is equal to a half point and is a throw that demonstrates power, but may lack overall speed and where the opponent does not land solely on his or her back. Other scoring maneuvers include a "yuko", equal to 1/4 point and a "koka" which is equal to 1/8 of a point. In the case of a tie at the end of regulation, the match will go into overtime and the winner is determined by "golden score," or sudden death.

Typically, the American team has struggled to get to the podium in judo and this year may be more of the same. Looking to buck that trend is Rhonda Rousey at 70kg. Rousey won a silver medal at the World Championships in 2007 and is regarded as the best American competitor in the last 10 years.

Other Americans of note include now four-time Olympian Brian Olson. The 35- year old is a former World bronze medalist, but has yet to medal in his three previous Olympic games. Joining him on the men's side of the things is first- time Olympian Ryan Reser (73kg). The 28-year old has been an olympic alternate twice and is a four-time national champion, as well as the 2007 Pan American Games gold medal winner.

The international scene is chock-full of talent, especially on the women's side of the sport, starting with Japan's 48kg icon Ryoko Tani. The 32-year old made her first Olympic appearance in 1992 when she was just 16 years old. Tani is a four-time Olympic medalist, taking silver in 1992 and 1996 and then earning gold in 2000 and 2004. She has also won seven world championships.

Also making her fifth Olympic Games is Cuba's Driulis Gonzalez (63kg). The 34-year old has also won four olympic medals, with one gold (1996), one silver (2000) and two bronze (1992 and 2004).

North Korea's Sun Hui Kye also made her olympic debut at the age of 16 and made the most of it, upsetting Tani (then Tamura) for the gold medal in 1996.

In terms of total Olympic medals earned, Japan has graced the podium more than any other country, amassing 58 total medals, including 31 gold. France and South Korea are tied for second with 33 medals, with France claiming gold 10 times and South Korea with eight. The United States has yet to win a gold medal in Judo and has just nine medals total (three silver and six bronze).

07/17 13:11:37 ET

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